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    Dr. Rao Leads Groundbreaking Breast Cancer Research

    Dr. Rao Leads Groundbreaking Breast Cancer Research

    Morehouse School of Medicine is on a mission to discover the cause and cures of health inequities and new research, led by Veena N. Rao, Ph.D., professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and co-director of the Cancer Biology Program, is a good example of the institution’s commitment to find causes and cures for breast cancer.

    The research explains why African-American women have a greater risk of developing more aggressive and difficult-to-treat forms of breast cancer. Rao’s research findings reveal young African-American women with triple negative breast cancers who have cytoplasmic mislocalization of BRCA1 proteins often develop BRCA1-associated hereditary and sporadic breast cancers. Her study could lead to the discovery of novel biomarkers that can predict disease progression and validate this increased risk for African-American women.

    Since the discovery of the breast cancer gene in 1994, researchers have come a long way in unlocking how various forms of breast cancer develop and in creating targeted treatment therapies.   Dr. Rao, who has been a recipient of the Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award since 2003, has spearheaded numerous breakthroughs in breast cancer research including the identification of short form BRCA1 proteins known as BRCA1a and BRCA1b – which are expressed at reduced levels in breast and ovarian cancers. Her team was the first to show BRCA1a induces cell death in breast cancer cells and the first to introduce BRCA1a into triple negative breast cancer by gene therapy and successfully block tumor development in mice. Since she began her lab work in 1994, Rao has received five patents for her research findings.

    The research is funded by the Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar Award, NIH, U54, RCMI, ACTSI and ING Foundation and published in Volume 226, Issue 12, of the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

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